Sunday, November 9, 2014

Failure to Launch

This week my husband and I made a hard decision. We decided to live in our house. For the past year we have been preparing to move. We did some repairs and deep cleaning and put our house on the market during the winter, and then we proceeded to clean this enormous house every fifteen minutes to show it to prospective buyers. What a royal pain in the pa-toot.

I hoped that a move would improve our financial situation. Let me break this down for you. When my oldest child went away to college in 2002 we owned our property at the Ranch free and clear and we had no debt. By the time our youngest graduated from a pricey private art college in 2013, we had taken out a first mortgage, then a home equity line of credit, then multiple Parent Plus loans, then we paid tuition on credit cards and borrowed through the wonderful Hebrew Free Loan Association. I think Ron and I were solely responsible for the rebound of the economy. Don’t send thank-you notes, send money.

Both of our sons received scholarships; however, based on our middle class income, the scholarships did not cover the full cost of tuition and, of course, no living expenses. There is a thing called the EFC:  Expected Family Contribution (cynical snort laugh). Don’t even get me started talking about the cost of a college education and how the college system leeches off the middle class. Everyone wants to talk about student loan debt; what about parent college-for-kids loan debt? After Sudi graduated, we refinanced our house to roll our loans into the mortgage at a lower percentage rate. None of our children have any student loan debt. We assumed all of it and I’m fine with that. I’m proud that I put three children through college and they came out debt-free. It is the singular greatest financial accomplishment of my life. The second-greatest is maintaining two cats who spend most of the day sleeping.

Now our house is mortgaged to the wing-nuts, Ron had to retire to deal with his health issues, and I chose to provide entertainment by running around like Chicken Little screaming omygod omygod omygod how do we pay our bills? The most sensible plan of action appeared to be to sell this big house and move to something smaller to reduce our mortgage. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But the market in our area is as dead as Dick Cheney’s brain. Our house has lost value. The few houses on the market in the price range that we could afford are either 1) smaller than my file cabinet, 2) in bad shape (is that duct tape holding the sink to the wall?), 3) in unsavory neighborhoods (flight path of the airlift helicopters coming and going to the hospital), 4) have salmon-colored shag carpet throughout that would cost so much to remove that it would defeat the purpose of downsizing, or 5) have a backyard consisting entirely of concrete and a birdbath (if I were a bird I would feel naked in that birdbath with no leaves to hide me). House-hunting is clearly a whole other blog topic.

After a therapeutic session with my loan agent at the bank, which resulted in the conclusion that my present mortgage package is so terrific that I would be better off shooting myself than moving right now; and after a deep conversation about the meaning of life with my theologian-realtor; and after a dark chocolate binge punctuated by a heart-to-heart conversation with my husband; we took the house off the market.

So we are moving back into our house. I am unpacking the boxes and boxes and boxes in the garage and putting things away in new places. We are repurposing our rooms and rearranging our furniture. I am enjoying all the fun and excitement of moving without the stress of moving. Unfortunately, I’m back to the stress of our precarious financial situation. But, you know what? I confess that part of my decision to stay in this house was connected to the tragic death of a friend of mine last week. As I witness the agony of his wife, my dear one, as she struggles to cope with this overwhelming loss, I find myself more able to put my precarious financial situation on a back burner. Other things in life are simply more important. I will count my blessings and rehang my pot rack.

My adorable albatross.

No comments: